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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Exercise Benefits Breast Cancer Patients

Study: Physical Activity Reduces Fatigue, Depression

Exercise Improves Mood, Energy Level continued...

The study included 240 recently diagnosed breast cancer patients who had surgery four to 10 weeks before recruitment.

Half the women took part in a 10-week, group-based behavioral therapy program aimed at reducing stress, while the other half participated in a much less intensive, single-day educational session.

Physical activity, fatigue, depression, and quality of life were all evaluated at study entry and three months later.

The researchers found that women who increased the time they spent engaged in physical activity between the time of surgery and other treatments had less fatigue-related disruptions in everyday activities.

Women in both groups who exercised more also experienced less depression and scored higher on tests measuring quality of life.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is to be presented next week at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in New Orleans.

Weight Training Safe After Surgery

Cathy Bryan, MEd, a personal trainer in Seaford, Del., has been working with breast cancer patients for two decades.

She tells WebMD that 20 years ago most women were told to avoid exercising with weights if their breast cancer surgery involved lymph node removal to avoid a condition known as lymphedema.

"The conventional wisdom was that lifting more than 10 pounds was dangerous," she says.

But research Bryan took part in showed that a supervised program of weight lifting was not only safe, but beneficial, following lymph node removal.

She says many of the women in the study ended up exercising more after their diagnosis than before, and almost all derived some benefits from exercise.

Bryan advises working with a trainer who has experience with breast cancer patients, if possible.

"Exercise reduces anxiety and depression," Bryan says. "You also sleep better when you exercise, and the body heals during rest."

It also helps patients regain a sense of control over their lives, King says.

"You lose control over so many things in your life when you have breast cancer," she says. "This is something that you can control."

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